U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Photojournalist pushed, camera lens broken during LA protest clashes

Incident Details


A confrontation at a June 23, 2024, protest in Los Angeles. A photojournalist at the event was shoved and his camera lens was broken.

June 23, 2024

An independent photojournalist was shoved and his camera was kicked, breaking the lens, while documenting clashes between pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli protesters in Los Angeles, California, on June 23, 2024. At least nine journalists were assaulted while covering the violence that day.

The conflict began after the Southern California chapter of the Palestinian Youth Movement called for demonstrators to meet at noon outside the Adas Torah synagogue in the heavily Jewish Pico-Robertson neighborhood in west LA to protest the alleged sale of occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Multiple journalists told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that scuffles, brawls and exchanges of pepper spray broke out in the streets nearby between the protesters and counterprotesters.

Individuals from both sides — including a rabbi and security volunteers from the Jewish community — attempted to intervene and prevent the violence from escalating. CNN reported that Los Angeles Police Department officers established a perimeter around the synagogue.

The photographer, who asked not to be identified because he fears harassment, told the Tracker that he arrived at the protest with another photojournalist and verbally identified himself to protesters as a journalist, although he didn’t wear a press pass.

As the protest came to an end, he was attacked when someone in the crowd falsely said he worked for Al Jazeera, the Qatari-based international TV news network that the Israeli government has barred from operating in the country amid the Israel-Gaza war. The photographer denied that he worked for the news organization, but said no one could hear him in the chaos.

A large man then walked up to him and, standing chest to chest, pushed the journalist into the street with his torso, he recounted to the Tracker. Another person at the protest pulled the large man away.

The crowd around the photojournalist grew to at least a dozen people, he said. They were walking toward him and he was slowly walking backward.

“I felt my camera get kicked,” he told the Tracker. “It was in my hand. I sort of wrapped my strap around my hand, so it didn’t fly away.”

The lens, a Sigma 20 mm F1.4 Canon mount worth about $900, was broken in the encounter. He said he has since sent the lens to be repaired, which he expects to cost hundreds of dollars.

After the kick, the photographer’s friend and fellow journalist Sean Beckner-Carmitchel got between him and the crowd and told him to get away, which he did, despite several people grabbing at his backpack. Meanwhile, Beckner-Carmitchel and journalist Justin Jun were beaten.

The photojournalist returned to try to help the journalists who were being assaulted, but someone else walked him away. He returned one more time and when Beckner-Carmitchel shouted at him to get away, he did.

After the event, the photojournalist said he was particularly worried about people from the protest tracking him down and so now sleeps with a baseball bat by his bed.

“I still would happily do photojournalism,” he told the Tracker. “I’m just really disheartened that police didn’t even bother to stop any violence that was happening right in front of their eyes.”

He continued: “I’m scared for my safety at protests now. And I’m worried that I’m going to get targeted for no reason other than having a camera.”

The LAPD said in a news release that officers were investigating two reports of battery at the protest and that one individual had been arrested for having a spiked post. A spokesperson for the department told the Tracker via email June 27 that they have no further information.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].